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US should keep military option open on Syria: Hagel

September 19, 2013 01:19 IST

The United States needs to maintain its military threat against Syria as such pressure forced the Assad regime to change its posture on chemical weapons, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

"It is clear that the credible threat of US force in Syria led to the diplomatic process where we are today. Yes, we should keep that military option exactly where it is," Hagel told reporters at a news conference at the Pentagon.

"We have assured the President that our assets and force posture remain the same. We are prepared to exercise any option that he would select," he said.

"But at the same time, you asked if I was comfortable with the process as it is now. Yes. That was always an objective of the President, a diplomatic solution, a resolution. So I think it's wise to let that process play out," he said in response to a question.

"Remember, the resolution, when the President made the decision he did and the resolution to go to Congress, was about chemical weapons. And so the diplomatic process, the track we're on I think is the responsible, wise approach. But it was the credible force of threat that got us to where we are, and we'll continue to have that credible option available to the President," Hagel said.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the current role of the military is to provide some planning assistance to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, who has the lead, and to maintain the credible threat of force, should the diplomatic track fail.

"My comments about the security of the stockpile remain valid. That is to say, it's a very challenging environment. Indicators are at this point, though, that the regime does have control of its stockpile," Dempsey said.

"And so long as they agree to the framework, which causes them to be responsible for the security, the movement, the protection of the investigators or the inspectors," he said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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